Ryan Poehling became the first former Lincoln Star off the board Friday in the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago, going to the Montreal Canadiens with the 25th selection.
“It is unbelievable,” Poehling said. “It is an honor to be a part of the organization. I was excited leading up to the draft, then when I got drafted it hit me and I cannot get this smile off my face.”
Poehling joins Brian Lee (2005) as the only former Stars to be picked in the first round of the NHL Draft.
On Saturday, Cayden Primeau learned his fate as well, joining Poehling and the Canadiens in the seventh round as the 199th pick overall. He was one of four former or current Stars selected Saturday.
The five selections is the second-most in Stars team history.
“It's crazy, there's really no words. ” Primeau said. “Just being able to be in an organization like the Montreal Canadiens and being able to grab experience from guys in the organization like Carey Price and guys like that, I'm really looking forward to it.”
Primeau helped lead the Stars in net, finishing 14-11-1 with a 3.16 goals-against average. Primeau also helped Team USA capture the gold medal in the 2016 World Junior A Challenge, along with teammates Ethen Frank, Alex Green and head coach Chris Hartsburg.
“Playing in the USHL was great,” Primeau said. ”Guys are faster and smarter. … Being on an organization like Lincoln, it was a lot of fun with the fans, too.”
Primeau is no stranger to the NHL; his father had a storied career with the Philadelphia Flyers, and his uncle Wayne Primeau played on seven different NHL teams from 1994 to 2010.
“Cayden is a kid that is special,” Stars general manager Jon Hull said. “He's just a kid that has gone into every situation and has handled it like a professional. He's mature beyond his years, and I think people will look back here 10 years from now and be talking about how he is playing in the National Hockey League and went in the seventh round of the draft.”
Three picks before Primeau's name was called, the Flyers drafted former Star Wyatt Kalynuk.
Kalynuk spent one season in Lincoln (2014-15) after being drafted by the Stars in Hull's first season as Lincoln's general manager, then finished his final two seasons with the Bloomington Thunder.
“Playing in Lincoln was probably some of my fondest memories of junior hockey,” Kalynuk said. “It was huge, (Hull) gave me a start, gave me an opportunity to play, and I think I owe a huge thank you to him for giving me that shot. Hully is a great guy and I wish him all the best and owe a thank you to him for sure.”
Sammy Walker, a third-round pick in 2015 by the Stars, had his name called as the 200th pick, right after Primeau, by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The 150-pound Walker has kind of been the big secret around the nation because of his size, but that didn't stop Hull and the Stars from drafting him.
“When we drafted Sammy Walker, we felt we were the first people in the door,” Hull said. “He didn't have a scholarship and he wasn't on any NHL draft lists. We have been very patient and have waited three years now and feel it's time for him to be part of our program here in Lincoln.
“Sammy is a kid, because of his size, I think a lot of people underestimate his ability.”
Walker, who played four games with the Stars, didn't attend the draft and spent it watching it with his family at home.
“(Hull) just got the ball rolling and people talking about me,” Walker said. “Getting drafted is something you always dream of since being a little kid.”
Former Star Jack Badini, who just finished his USHL career winning the Clark Cup with the Chicago Steel, was the first alum off the board Saturday in the third round as the 91st pick to the Anaheim Ducks.
Badini had 28 goals and 14 assists in 59 games for the Steel after playing two years with the Stars.
“I think for me, Jack is kind of a real special one here,” Hull said. “I have a great relationship with him and his family. He was the first futures pick that I made in Lincoln that ended up playing for us. He came in the year halfway through and spent the rest of the year with us. Obviously, a trade is a trade and felt we needed to make the right deal for us at the time, and in turn Jack has proved he is an elite player like we all thought he would be.
“I'm just very happy for him and really, really happy that he was able to get recognized. He has been a guy for years that a lot of people haven't given him the accolades and the respect that he deserves. This year he fought and earned it and found a way to be a draft pick, and not only a draft pick but a third-round pick.”
Former Stars draft picks Bryce Misley and Logan Cockerill, who never played for Lincoln, were also selected Saturday by the Minnesota Wild and New York Islanders, respectively.